World-class athletes train for intense competition by pushing themselves on a daily basis, denying themselves the indulgences that make them sluggish and weak, and focusing on the prize that motivates them to win.
In the same way, if we believers are following Christ in obedience, our daily walk will prepare us for… suffering.
Jesus warned us that we would suffer if we follow Him. The first epistle of Peter is in itself a theology of suffering. But how does our daily walk with Christ train us to suffer?
The one who willingly fasts on a regular basis is prepared to face hunger or poverty when it is forced upon him.
The one who gives freely and liberally, recognizing that everything in his possession belongs to God, is ready to suffer joyfully the theft of his belongings.
The one who esteems others as better than himself is not quick to be offended or angry when others act selfishly.
The one who daily humbles himself before God is not cut down by the scorn and mocking of others.
The one who practices forgiveness and love as he walks in the Spirit will long endure injustices or abuse for the sake of the gospel.
A consciousness of these truths convicts very deeply. I imagine myself having great boldness in the face of intense persecution, but the reality of my daily walk shows that I am much weaker than I imagine myself to be. I am angered by small offenses. I am impatient with minor trials. I react harshly when I think others are accusing or making fun. I am easily frustrated by life’s little annoyances.
The truth is, my flesh is much stronger than I’d like it to be because I feed it too much. Even on days when I am trying to walk in the Spirit, I’m trying too hard to do so in the flesh. Praise be to God that His mercies are new every morning! As I humble myself in desperate helplessness, may He change me from within to conform me to the image of the suffering Christ. May others see less of me and more of Him!